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Rise of Territorial Kingdoms – Intro


  • Aryans began migrating eastwards from about 1000 BCE.
  • As they moved eastwards, they encountered thick forests.
  • Iron played a significant role in the clearing of the forest.
  • The fertile soil of the Gangetic valley and the use of iron ploughshares improved agricultural productivity.
  • Iron also played a big role in improving craft production such as pottery, carpentry and metal working.
  • This in turn paved the way for urbanization.
  • In the meantime, a spirit of scepticism began to pervade questioning every custom and orthodoxy in the belief system in the society leading to rise of new ideas and faiths.
  • Of the several competing alternate beliefs, only Jainism and Buddhism touched the hearts of the people.
  • In this lesson we focus on the territorial identities and the new heterodox religious sects that emerged during this period.


  • The epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, the dharmasastras, Buddhist texts such as the Tripitakas and Jatakas, Jaina texts and Greek accounts such as that of Arrian constitute literary sources for the period.
  • Archaeological excavations have corroborated the literary evidences.

1. Iron objects such as hoes, sickles, knives, hooks, nails, arrowheads, vessels and mirrors confirm the widespread use of iron technology.

2. Textiles, beads, pottery, ivory objects, ceramics and glassware and artefacts of other metals are found.

3. A large number of terracotta artefacts have also been found.

  • Some of the urban features revealed by excavation of the various cities are as follows:

1. Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW), considered luxury-ware and “urban hallmark” have been excavated.

2. The towns were Rajagriha, Kaushambi enclosed by a moat and sometimes they were fortified.

3. Houses were built with mud bricks and in some cases with burnt bricks.

4. Facilities such as drains, ring wells and soak-pits are found, confirming the second urbanisation in the Gangetic plains.

Impact of Iron Technology: Differing Views

  • The movement of the Indo-Aryans towards the east was aimed at accessing the iron ore of south Bihar and gaining a near monopoly over it. The iron ore was responsible for the political dominance attained by the state of Magadha. -D.D. Kosambi.
  • Iron axes and iron ploughs led to the expansion of area under cultivation in the Ganges valley. -R.S. Sharma.
  • That the use of iron axe and iron plough facilitated clearing of forests and generation of agricultural surplus is a myth because even as late as 16th and 17th centuries the Gangetic plain was heavily forested. -Makkhan Lal.
  • The forests of Ganges region could have been cleared by means of fire. -A. Ghosh and Niharranjan Ray.

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